IT IS NOT every day anymore that you get to write the name Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch in a story, so that is where we begin. In 1951, Crazylegs had eight touchdowns of 50 or more yards for the Los Angeles Rams. In 2007, Devin Hester also had eight for the Chicago Bears. Eight is the NFL record.
DeSean Jackson, the official incendiary device of the Philadelphia Eagles, has six with more than half a season to go.
He is becoming the face of this multifaceted offense, an Andy Reid/Marty Mornhinweg production that is about as high on the pyrotechnics as any offense we have seen around here - which is saying something. Because, as Mornhinweg says, "As you know, I'm all for the big plays."
But this is becoming absurd. With the weapons, with the scheme, this offense can be pretty much unstoppable on the days when quarterback Donovan McNabb plays as well as he did yesterday.
"I'm just being put in some great positions to go out there and, I guess, score over 50 yards," Jackson said. "But whatever we need to do to make it work, man, that's what we're going to do."
He spoke in the Eagles' locker room, between games of the New York-New York doubleheader. The Eagles upheld their end in outrageous fashion, taking apart the Giants by the score of 40-17, shackling Giants quarterback Eli Manning and then pounding the New York defense with three huge scores - a 41-yard run by Leonard Weaver, a 66-yard run by Shady McCoy, and a 54-yard reception by Jackson, who was so wide-open that the Giants' coaches will have no choice in the film room today but to admit to their players that they failed them.
Because the Eagles had this one in mind since about Wednesday, if not before - that's the vibe you get, anyway. They had it in mind and they knew they wanted to try it if they got the Giants in the right defense. They knew they wanted to have Jackson appear to be cutting across the formation and to have him go upfield instead. They knew the Giants' scheme couldn't handle it.
When asked if he was shocked to be as open as he was, Jackson said, "Not necessarily . . . We kind of knew, if we got that [defensive] look, it was basically going to be there. And it was."
You get big plays for a couple of reasons, and both are in play right now for the Eagles. First, the weapons the Eagles run out there this season are shockingly good. Second, Reid/Mornhinweg are in a great groove right now as far as scheming this thing. It is all coming together, and the yards are coming in these great, undigestible gulps.
"It's the players first - we've got some skilled players," Mornhinweg said. "We try, schematically, to get some advantages on some big plays. But the players - you have to have the right players. We've got them."
They have been unable to sustain drives this season, to be methodical - partly because McNabb had a couple of rough weeks but mostly because the offensive line has been in such flux. It is what got them beat against Oakland. The playcalling that day, all about trying to hit home runs, was a tacit acknowledgement that they just couldn't function in a methodical way. And in the end, if they can't get that fixed, it will kill this team.
Still, with Todd Herremans back for a second straight week at left guard, things seem to have stabilized a lot. And, repeat: There will be games when this stability will matter a lot, games when the big plays are not there.
In the meantime, though, there is the here and now. And Jackson's touchdown, near the end of the first half, after the Giants had cut a 16-0 lead to 16-7, came on the first play after New York's touchdown. It was a mental dagger.
"They're the Giants," Jackson said. "They're a great team. It was a great situation for us to be able to keep the pedal to the metal. We felt they were trying to come back a little bit with a couple of turnovers, trying to take the momentum, but we just stuck to what we knew and stuck to what was working for us."
Asked if he could imagine how demoralizing a big touchdown like that could be, Jackson said he could.
"It's definitely a tough situation," he said. "Any time you've got playmakers like we have on our team, and I'm not even speaking about myself, but [tight end Brent] Celek, Weaver, McCoy, Jeremy [Maclin], everybody emerged today. To beat a team like the Giants, that's what we had to do. We talked about it a lot. We talked about, if we get two or three more big plays than they get, we'll win. And that's what happened."
After the game, Jackson limped around the locker room but said he was OK; he originally injured his foot last Monday against the Redskins. Less than 6 months after the death of his father, Bill, from pancreatic cancer, DeSean says he is playing this season with a purpose. He says there is a reason everything he touches seems to turn into a 50-yard touchdown.
"It's a blessing," he said. "The whole offseason, I was dealing with something, with my father. He definitely prepared me for this. He pushed me. Without him here, I'm just trying to keep it going for him. It's a great situation for myself. I feel like he's still here, and everything I do, he's seeing and he's watching. Just keep winning, man. Just keep making plays and hopefully make the Super Bowl. That's what we're trying to do."
Fifty-something yards at a time.
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